Miles to lead USM Symphony into its 99th season


As the The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Symphony Orchestra sails into its historic 99th concert season, a new captain will be at the helm.

Dr. Michael Miles will serve as interim director of orchestral activities. The longtime collaborator and professor of music, will take the place held by Dr. Jay Dean, who has served as director and conductor for the past 30 years.

Dean, who recently retired, is remaining with USM as associate dean for the Arts in the College of Arts and Sciences. In this capacity, he will have a more hands-on role in helping the arts program with a more global involvement.

“I am looking forward to having the opportunity to work with arts colleagues in addition to music,” said Dean. “I am a huge fan of all of the arts and cannot wait to enjoy the wonderful experiences in store and find ways to support them all.”

“In my role as Interim Director of Orchestral Activities, I am dedicated to continuing the fine work of Dr. Jay Dean and his commitment to the highest quality of orchestral performances” Miles said. “We want to ensure that our talented students are provided the opportunity for a quality orchestral experience while sharing wonderful performances with our patrons and community.”

With his work with Dean and as director of the school of music for six years, Miles has worked very closely with Dean in coordinating the program in place now at the university. “With four years as associate director, I’ve seen how Jay makes it work,” he said. “ I can’t be Jay Dean, but we can continue to have the quality program we have here and bring the world to Mississippi and provide our community with outstanding musical performances.”

Miles said the biggest change that might be seen is his renewed focus on the educational mission of the orchestra.

“Jay did a great job of making the orchestra a state treasure and providing our students with incredible opportunities. Under my direction, there will be a renewed focus on the academic side.   

“The orchestra program is made up of students and students need to be cultivated, nurtured and provided with opportunities to perform. They need experiences that will allow them to not only have great musical and artistical performances with the orchestra, but also to further their education. That will be our purpose, finding a balance between the two, so we will continue to have great performances, but also allowing time and space to cultivate their academic progress.”

Miles sees guiding the ship as his purpose.

“There are a lot of of moving parts,” he said. “Having worked with Jay for 10 years, I’ve seen how those parts move and work together to make the entire program. I’m just the steward of the ship. The real focus really needs to be on the students. They are the ones who make the music.”

The theme for the upcoming season is Tribute and will pay homage to a variety of composers, performers, conductors and cultures. 

This season, audiences will enjoy everything from Beethoven to Gershwin, and from Debussy to Bernstein. 

The season will also feature two outstanding School of Music faculty, Dr. Michael Bunchman on piano performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and Dr. Marcos Machado on bass performing a new work from Chinese composer Tan Dun titled Wolf Totem. 

The annual Future Stars concert, featuring the winners of the William T. Gower Student Concerto Competition, will pay tribute to the best student performers. Of course, the tradition of providing the community with a joyous celebration of the holiday season will continue with the Holiday Spectacular featuring the Southern Chorale and Hattiesburg Civic Chorus.

 As part of the season, the Southern Opera and Musical Theater will present two light-hearted productions. In the fall, the Tony Award-winning The Drowsy Chaperone, a comedy that pays tribute to the roaring 20s with one high-energy song and dance number after another, will take to the stage, crafted by the team that brought you the acclaimed Mary Poppins and The Phantom of the Opera. 

In the spring, Too Many Sopranos, an opera by contemporary composer Ed Penhorwood, fills the air with dynamic song. Based on the premise of there being too many sopranos wanting to get into the heavenly choir, this fast-paced opera satirizes all the stereotypes and musical styles in the operatic genre.

Season tickets are now on sale at the Southern Miss Ticket Office, 800.844.8425, 601.266.5418 or Individual tickets go on sale September 5, 2018.

For information about the Southern Miss School of Music, visit